“A Woman’s Place is in the White House!”

By Jess Keniston

clintonThe moment one opens a computer or switches on the TV, they are bombarded by the face of Hillary Clinton. Many campaigns in Clinton’s favor scream, “A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE WHITE HOUSE,” implying that in nominating a female president, America has emerged victorious in the battle for women’s rights. Clinton’s feminism, as analyzed through a liberal feminist framework, is effective because she subverts male domination and works for women’s rights. However, many do not agree with her feminist standing.

On Clinton’s official campaign website, a quote emblazons the top of a page titled “Women’s rights and opportunity.” It reads: “I am a proud lifelong fighter for women’s issues, because I firmly believe what’s good for women is good for America.” In claiming this, Hillary implies that electing her as president will induce radical change in women’s rights. This statement is bought by some. For example, Clare Foran writes, “Clinton can claim a feminist victory by virtue of winning the nomination,” and quotes television producer Shonda Rhimes when she calls Clinton “a one-woman feminist revolution,” claiming that Hillary is creating real change for women. Judith Lorber claims, “The presence of a woman head of state does not necessarily represent a triumph of feminism, as most women politicians do not represent themselves as champions of women but as leaders of everyone. Feminist political and legal changes are much more likely to come from grassroots political movements and feminist organizations.” In fighting for women’s rights, Hillary may claim that she is a feminist, but will be unable to induce radical change for women while attempting to appeal to everyone.

However, many do not buy the argument that Hilary’s victory in securing the Democratic nomination is a feminist triumph or that she has the right to call herself a feminist at all. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani scoffs at Hillary’s “feminist” standing, accusing that she and her husband take “millions of dollars in speaking fees from dictators, oppressors; from people who discriminate against women to people who run countries where women can’t drive cars,” referring to the millions of dollars Clinton received from Saudi Arabia (Schow). Furthermore, Rex Murphy refutes any claim that Clinton has shattered the “glass ceiling”—a concept that Lorber defines as assuming “that women have the motivation, ambition, and capacity for positions of power and prestige, but hidden barriers keep them from reaching the top” (35). Murphy argues that Clinton has simply ridden on the coattails of her powerful husband and that “real” feminists gain success by themselves, without help from men. Based on these arguments, Clinton cannot be a true feminist while failing to embody feminist ideals. As Radical feminist theory states, women must “unite…in struggle,” and that no real change can happen until men “give up their male privileges and support women’s liberation in the interest of our humanity and their own” (Redstockings 131). Although nominating a woman as president is a great leap from the days where women were denied even the ability to vote, I believe that nominating a woman means the same thing for feminist triumph as electing a Black president did for African American triumph. This victory does not mean that the fight for women’s rights is won, or that it is remotely close to over. Hillary may address some feminist issues, but it is crucial to keep fighting for equity. Full disclose: I do feel a sense of empowerment hearing that a woman’s place is in the White House.

Broad City and One-Dimensional Feminism

Broad CityBy Amelia Eskenazi (FGS ’19)

Broad City, a show about two Jewish girls in their mid-twenties living in New York City, has been heralded as a must watch television show for girls and women across the country. Elle has described Broad City as “pushing the boundaries,” while Bustle described the show as “blatantly feminist.” While the show does dispel many of the hyper-sexualized narratives within the media concerning women’s sexuality, the extent of its feminism is very one-dimensional. I will be analyzing Broad City through the lens of transnational feminism, because to claim that Broad City is the ultimate example of feminism is to relegate any form of feminism other than liberal feminism into the background.

Within the first episode of Season Three, “Two Chainz,” one of the two main characters, Ilana, makes a xenophobic comment, claiming she is late because she read an article “about these Saudi women who have to ask their ‘keepers’ permission to leave the house…I was so pissed I had to blow off some steam and masturbate first.”  Many viewers fail to notice the xenophobic nature of the comment due to the overtly sex positive notion of masturbation at the end of the sentence. In “Feminist Theory, Embodiment, and the Docile Agent: Some Reflections on the Egyptian Islamic Revival,” Saba Mahmood asserts that “agency, in this form of analysis, is understood as the capacity to realize one’s own interests against the weight of custom, tradition, transcendental will, or other obstacles” (206). This cultural structure in Saudi Arabia is deemed oppressive in the eyes of a white urban woman with the assumption that Saudi Arabian women desire something different than their current position within society. Mahmood continues, “Feminism, therefore, offers both a diagnosis of women’s status across cultures as well as a prescription for changing the situation of women who are understood to be marginal, subordinate, and oppressed” (206). It is assumed that all women desire the same type of liberation as the western, white, urban woman. However, this ignores the complexities of autonomy, as every woman has a different positionality. To assume that all women have the same desires is to ignore the various intersections of identity outside of gender identification. Along these lines, in the “Redstockings Manifesto,” the Redstockings assert that they “will not ask what is ‘revolutionary’ […] only what is good for women” (101). However, this assumes that there is a universal truth for autonomy, rather than acknowledging that what is good for some women may be detrimental for others.

Broad City 2The “Redstockings Manifesto” simplifies the complexities of sexism through the failure to recognize the systematic intersections of race, class, nationality, and sexuality in relation to gender. Similarly, the celebration of Broad City as a feminist television show abridges feminist theory, perpetuating the notion that feminism is simply a validation of women. Although Broad City appears to be progressive due to its celebration of female masturbation and body positivity, it fails to acknowledge the complexities within female identity. We must be critical of the ways in which we willingly label something as feminist. To imply that something is feminist because it insinuates the equality of men and women is to ignore the interlocking systems of domination that coincide with gender oppression as well as disregard the various types of feminism, assuming that all forms of feminism are the same. Broad City can be empowering for women without being rooted in the ideologies of feminism.

Domestic Violence and the NFL

By Cheanna Gavin (’18)

Ray Rice

Ray Rice

In March, NFL running back Ray Rice was arrested for third-degree aggravated assault pertaining to a domestic violence incident with his then-fiancé that occurred in February. The NFL’s initial reaction to the domestic violence case caused major up-roar. Along these lines, Judith Lorber claims, “The ideological subtext of sports in Western culture is that physical strength is men’s prerogative, and it justifies men’s physical and sexual domination of men” (271). This ideal put’s women in the backseat, and makes for justification of men’s violence.

The punishment that Ray Rice received sent a message that the NFL doesn’t care about domestic violence. John Harbaugh, Head Coach of the Baltimore Ravens, said, “It’s not a big deal. It’s just part of the process […] There are consequences when you make a mistake like that. I stand behind Ray. He’s a heck of a guy. He’s done everything right since. He makes a mistake. He’s going to have to pay a consequence.” In the society that we live in, aggression is valorized within sports. “Men and boys are encouraged to be aggressive, cool, and physically strong. Violence, especially in sports, is condoned” (Lorber 254). After months of speculation and backlash, a video of Rice punching his fiancé surfaced on September 8. The NFL responded that same day. Rice’s contract with the Baltimore Ravens was terminated, and he was suspended from the NFL indefinitely. Although the punishment for Rice changed, the responses have not. The fact that it took a video of a man punching his wife to bring the severity of the issue into perspective is a huge problem. Both young boys and girls get the message that this is not a big deal. Young boys see that they won’t be severely punished without visual proof, and young girls see that there voice alone will not be heard.

John Harbaugh

John Harbaugh

From a feminist point of view, there should be no praise for the recent actions taken by the NFL. “Feminist studies of men blame sports […] and other places where men bond for encouraging physical and sexual violence and misogyny” (Lorber 273). The NFL as a whole has made a culture that benefits from violence on and off the field. Feminism views the Ray Rice incident as one aspect of a much larger problem. For example, David J. Leonard and Monica J. Casper write in “Rotten to the Core: The NFL and Domestic Violence,” “Ray Rice might be our current poster child, a symbol that allows the NFL to distance itself from domestic violence. But this is about a culture that, again and again, shows us that women’s lives, and especially Black women’s lives, don’t matter.” This brings into perspective the larger problem of domestic violence and the culture that allows it to flourish.

According to the Redstockings, women “are considered inferior beings […] Our humanity is denied. Our prescribed behavior is enforced by the threat of physical violence” (130). The Rice spectacle has only reinforced this statement by sending the message that domestic violence is “no big deal.” In order for change to be made on a grand scale, the encouragement of aggression and the violent culture of sports must change. This ordeal has brought the issue of domestic violence back into the eye of the public, and has allowed for changes, on a minor scale, to begin to be made. After the backlash that the NFL received, they have changed their domestic violence penalties. For future domestic violence incidents, there will be longer suspensions. Although this does not solve the problem, it is a step in the right direction.